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ARTICLE: Wasps vs. Bees
by Jaime Pawelek and Rollin Coville

“Wasps and bees are often mistaken for each other, but knowing a few key features of both can help one tell them apart. Bees gather pollen and nectar from flowers to use as food for their offspring. Wasps are carnivorous and hunt for other insects or spiders, but some also visit flowers for nectar. Bees usually have very hairy bodies and pollen collecting hairs on their legs or under their abdomen to help them accomplish this task. Wasps tend to have few to no hairs at all because they don’t intentionally collect pollen.

…wasps usually have more elongate bodies, longer legs, and sometimes have what looks like a pinched waist, whereas bees usually look more compact. There are other physical differences between bees and wasps, but they are hard to make out without the use of a hand lens or microscope. So, if you see a busy creature flying from flower to flower and actively collecting brightly colored pollen, then you can be fairly sure it is a bee.

Bees actually evolved from predatory wasps (apoid wasps), so bees and wasps have a lot of similarities both in appearance and behavior. Bees and wasps both have two sets of wings, unlike flies, which only have one. Also, only the females of bees and wasps can sting because the stinger is actually a modified egg laying apparatus. Behaviorally they are similar in that they both have social and solitary species. Yellow jackets, like bumble bees, have seasonal colonies that form in the spring and die out in the late fall with the queens overwintering to start a new colony the following year. The majority of bees and wasps though are solitary, and the female does all the work of building and provisioning nests for her young.

One wasp that a lot of people confuse with bees is the yellow jacket. Unlike honey bees, yellow jackets and other wasps don’t leave their stinger behind when they sting something, therefore they are able to sting several times in a row. These social wasps form papery nests both above and below ground that can contain anywhere from 50 to 5,000 individuals. The larger the colony gets the more aggressive the wasps become. This usually happens in late summer/early fall when food is in short supply. Yellow jackets then become nuisances at picnics eating whatever they can find…”

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ARTICLE: The bears and the bees: Humans messing up the natural world, again
By Patt Morrison 

L.A., we have been seeing waaaaay too many movies — and not enough nature documentaries.

First, the news:

Glen Bearian — so named for his Glendale haunts and with a clever Armenian-sounding surname for a city with a large Armenian population — had been cooling off in a local pool not long before he was  tranquilized and carted back to the Angeles National Forest by Fish and Game officials for the second time in four months.

He’s been wandering around foothill streets, and in April, before he was shipped back to the wild the first time, he startled a gadget-absorbed pedestrian who — in the fashion of so many text-obsessed people who have almost walked right into me — almost ran right into the bear in Montrose.

And then my colleague Steve Lopez just reported on urban beekeepers in Los Angeles, where the law bans hives but where residents are tending their own backyard hives, which may be the saving of bee populations that are collapsing in the wild. (I know an urban beekeeper, but you’ll never Abu Ghraib that out of me.)

And in May, Santa Monica police shot and killed a mountain lion that had wandered into a courtyard in a city office building and gotten trapped — killed unnecessarily, to some locals’ way of thinking, and they made their feelings known.

…ditto the bees. Anyone in a neighborhood complains and the bees are exterminated as if they were pests, instead of a tiny, vital part of the food chain. All those killer bee movies seem to make city folk think that the honeybee, the workhorse of agriculture, ornamental and comestible, is out there raring to kill us.

I was astonished by some of the comments on Lopez’s piece, people demanding that the city wipe out all beehives because someone in their family has a serious allergy to bee venom.

Really? Kill off all urban bees because you’re afraid your child might be stung? While we’re at it, let’s take out school and park swing sets because someone might get hurt. Let’s chop down that tree because some kid might try to climb it. Oh wait, we did that already, didn’t we?

Without bees, whole swaths of agriculture could collapse, floraculture could collapse, all the creatures dependent on them would go — boom, boom, boom, domino, dead.

Already honeybees are themselves in a state of collapse in parts of the country. Bees are so scarce that California almond growers are having to patronize rent-a-hive businesses to get the bee pollinators into their orchards. Agriculture isn’t just “out there” either. Urban gardeners and urban gardens could help to save bee populations, and Los Angeles still bears traces of what it once was, even afterWorld War II: the richest agricultural county in the nation.

We humans had better wise up. At the rate we’re going, with the attitude we bring to our dealings with these creatures — destroying their homes to build ours, intolerant of even the insects whose survival is closely tied to our own — in very short order the only place we’ll be able to see them is on movie screens.

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This is not just any honey, and it does not come from just any bee. The Himalayan honey bee, or Apis dorsal laborious is the world’s largest honey bee – measuring up to 1.2 inches. They exist only in the Himalayas and build their nests in high altitudes (from 8,200 to 13,500 ft). The nests can contain as much as 130lbs of honey and interestingly different types of honey can be found at different altitudes. Himalayan honey bees make spring honey, red honey, and autumn honey. Red honey, made solely by Himalayan honey bees and found at the highest altitudes, is the most valuable because of its intoxicating and relaxing qualities. The Gurung men can import this honey to other parts of Asia for five times the price of the other honey. 

Harvesting the honey is a tradition that the men of Nepal have been doing for generations. They go twice a year, dropping harnessed ladders and ropes from the top of the cliff to a base below where a fire is lit to help smoke the bees away from their hives. A “honey hunter” then descends the ladder and cuts the large honeycomb nests down in chunks. This dangerous mission brings food and money to their villages when the honey is sold.

Eric Valli photographed the photo story “Honey Hunters of Nepal” in 1987 and won first prize at World Press for it… See more of his work at

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Tree Hive [via Ar?c?l?k Bilgileri]

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“When I consider the lack of cooperation in society, I tell myself it is due to ignorance of our interdependent nature. I am often moved by little insects, like bees. The laws of nature dictate that they work together in order to survive, since they are endowed with an instinctive sense of social responsibility. They have no constitution, laws, police, religion, or moral education, but they faithfully work together because of their nature. There are times when they might fight, but in general the entire colony survives thanks to cooperation. Human beings have constitutions, elaborate legal systems and police forces, religions, remarkable intelligence, and hearts endowed with the ability to love. But despite these extraordinary qualities, in actual practice we lag behind the smallest of insects. In some ways, I feel that we are poorer than the bees.” ~ The Dalai Lama -My Spiritual Journey

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Bee + Lavender

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The way of the Bee (Natural Beekeeping)

 article by milkwoodkirsten 

Bees just want to be bees. I’ve learned recently that, like most things in nature, a honeybee colony is most happy, calm and resilient when it’s left to do what it does best. For bees, this means forage for nectar and pollen, raise a brood, and make honey. And bees want to do this in their own time, on their own schedule, and with the freedom to respond to each unique season. Which is quite contrary to how we currently manage bees. So what’s going on here?

Our species’ treatment of the honeybee is a striking metaphor for our wider relationship with nature. In short, we started out okay, with a suitable amount of reverence, and then we progressively sought to bend the way of the bee to our wishes, convenience and ultimately, gross profit at the expense of all else. The result of this treatment has pushed the honeybee (a primary pollinator of most things we eat) to the point of collapse, and now we’re wondering what went wrong and how the heck to fix it. Sound familiar?

Until recently I thought beekeeping was pretty simple and straight forward. Don’t you just get a hive, plunk some bees in it, put it somewhere suitable, check it lots for disease, then harvest honey once a year? But once i started thinking, reading and chatting about it, I realized there are ways and there are ways bees

…a bee colony is a finely tuned super-organism with about 40 million years of evolutionary backup. Bees have been refining what they do for a bloody long time, and they’ve got things pretty much sorted. Understanding how they operate in a completely natural system is a good starting point for understanding their needs.

So natural beekeeping (as opposed to not-quite-as-bad-as-conventional beekeeping, sometimes called by the same name) is all about letting bees be bees, and harvesting surplus honey when it is available. In the meantime, you get fantastic fertility from having so many pollinators around, and you’re creating resilient colonies which are disease resistant.

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“Silence of the Bees” – PBS Video
Watch the full episode here! (1 hour)
This program premiered October 28, 2007

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